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Huff v. AGCO Corp

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

May 8, 2018

ANGELA R. HUFF, Individually, and as Executrix of the Estate of DAVID W. HUFF, Plaintiffs,
v.
AGCO CORPORATION, CARGILL, INCORPORATED, and SOUTHERN STATES SOMERSET COOPERATIVE, INCORPORATED, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT .

         This matter is before the Court on three motions to dismiss and one motion to remand. For the reasons discussed below, the Court remands this action to Mercer Circuit Court and denies the remaining motions as moot.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are drawn from the Plaintiffs complaint. On August 4, 2016, David Huff was killed when the Willmar Wrangler 4500 he was operating malfunctioned and overturned, pinning him underneath. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20-29.) A Willmar Wrangler 4500 is a front-end loader with an articulated frame and an 83-inch-long by 40.5-inch-wide by 39.5-inch-deep bucket. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.) The bucket on the loader operated by David Huff was original, correctly mounted, and broke off while in use. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-26.) The bucket demonstrated wear, as a result of a manufacturing defect, which caused it to break off its mounting. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30, 32.) The loader also lacked warnings that the bucket or mounting system could fail and cause serious injury or death. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) The Kentucky Labor Cabinet Occupational Safety and Health Program conducted an investigation of the incident and issued a report which referred to the Willmar Wrangler 4500 as a 2000 (year). (Am. Compl. ¶ 39.) The report does not contain any information as to how the Willmar Wrangler 4500 was a 2000 (year) and whether that references the date of manufacture, sale, distribution, or design. (Am. Compl. ¶ 49.)

         Southern States Somerset was the original purchaser and owner of the Willmar Wrangler 4500 and transferred it to David Huffs employer on March 18, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.) AGCO acquired Willmar Manufacturing from Cargill in 1998 pursuant to a Sale and Purchase of Assets Agreement, and AGCO is the successor in interest to Willmar Manufacturing. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-13.) The Sale and Purchase of Assets Agreement between Cargill and AGCO lists certain excluded liabilities which AGCO did not assume from Cargill. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) They include any liabilities relating to Cargill's violation of laws or regulations, arising out of expressed or implied warranties made by Cargill, or based on any product sold or manufactured by Cargill prior to the closing date of the sale. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.)

         II. Procedural History

         A number of motions are pending before the Court, and therefore a review of the procedural history is necessary to establish the current posture of this action. Plaintiff Angela Huff originally commenced this products liability action in Mercer Circuit Court on August 2, 2017 against Defendants AGCO and Cargill. (Compl., DE 1-1.) AGCO and Cargill removed this action on August 25, 2017, invoking this Court's diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (DE 1.) Shortly thereafter, Cargill filed its first motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (DE 8.) Rather than filing a response to motion, Huff, invoking Rule 15(a)(1), filed an amended complaint without leave of the Court. (DE 12.) In her amended complaint, Huff joined Southern States Somerset as a defendant. (DE 12.) She identified Southern States Somerset as a Virginia business entity and asserted that the Court retained diversity of citizenship jurisdiction over the action. (Am. Compl. ¶ 7- 8, DE 12.)

         Huff asserts the following claims in her amended complaint. Count I alleges that Cargill and AGCO are strictly liable for defective design and failure to warn. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 51-59.) Count II alleges that Cargill and AGCO were negligent in failing to warn David Huff of the propensity of the Willmar Wrangler 4500 to fail. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 60-69.) Count III alleges that Cargill and AGCO were negligent designing and manufacturing the Willmar Wrangler 4500 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 70-74.) Count IV alleges that Cargill and AGCO violated statutes and regulations in designing, producing, distributing, and marketing the Willmar Wrangler 4500, constituting negligence per se. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 75-83.) Count V alleges that Cargill and AGCO breached express warranties made to David Huff that the Willmar Wrangler 4500 was safe and fit for its intended use and free from defects. (Am. Compl. ¶¶84-96.) Count VI alleges breach of implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for particular purpose by Cargill and AGCO. ((Am. Compl. ¶¶ 97-105.) And, finally, Count VII alleges that Southern States Somerset was negligent in maintaining the Willmar Wrangler 4500 used by David Huff. ((Am. Compl. ¶¶ 106-110.)

         Cargill filed a second 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in response to Huffs amended complaint. (DE 16.) In their motion, Cargill attached two exhibits cited by Huff in her amended complaint: the 1998 Asset Purchase Agreement between AGCO and Cargill and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet Occupational Safety and Health Program Report on David Huffs death.[1] In Angela Huffs response to the motion to dismiss, she argues that inclusion of the exhibits has converted its 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, she cross-moved to stay Cargill's motion pending discovery. (DE 22.)

         Southern States Somerset has also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claims against it are barred by the exclusivity provision of the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Act, Ky. Rev. Stat 342.690. (DE 27.) Huff has filed a response in which she again moves for the Court to convert the motion into one for summary judgment and asks the Court to stay the motion pending discovery. (DE 34.)

         Finally, Huff has filed a motion for remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, (DE 32), based on Southern States Somerset's representation in its answer that it is Kentucky corporation, (Answer ¶ 5, DE 27). Huff also requests a stay of the Defendants' motions to dismiss on the basis that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The Defendants' have filed responses to the motion to remand, and Huff has filed a reply. Replies and responses have been filed on all of the motions discussed above and these matters are now ripe for consideration.

         III. Analysis

         The first motion for the Court to consider is Huffs motion to remand (DE 32) because it asserts that the Court lacks jurisdiction over this matter. Federal district courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction. U.S. Const, art. Ill. § 2, cl. 1. That jurisdiction extends only over claims arising under federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and civil actions between citizens of different states, or between a state or its citizens and a foreign state or its citizens, where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Diversity of citizenship jurisdiction requires complete diversity between all plaintiffs and all defendants. Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (citing Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996)). Thus, in multiparty cases, the "presence in the action of a single plaintiff from the same State as a single defendant deprives the district court of original jurisdiction over the entire action." Exxon Mobil Corp v. A Uapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 553 (2005) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267 (1806); Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 375 (1978)).

         In her amended complaint, Huff invokes this Court's diversity jurisdiction, asserting that she and the decedent are citizens of Kentucky, that AGCO and are Delaware businesses, and that Southern States Somerset is a Virginia business. (Am. Compl ¶¶ 1-2, 5-7.) This assertion was based on a report from the Kentucky Secretary of State which identified Southern States Somerset as a foreign corporation with its principal office in Richmond, Virginia. (DE 32-1.) In its answer, Southern States Somerset stated that its principal place of business is in Kentucky. (Answer ¶ 5, DE 27.) Similarly, in its Rule 7.1(a) corporate disclosure, Southern States Somerset stated that it is incorporated in Virginia with its principal place of business in Somerset, Kentucky. (DE 26.) Thus, it is uncontested that Southern States Somerset is a citizen of Virginia and Kentucky, 28 U.S.C. 1332(c)(1) ("[A] corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen ...


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